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No. 8 Virginia women’s soccer gets back on track with pair of home conference wins

The Cavaliers looked sharp, outscoring their two opponents 5-0

<p>The Cavaliers got back into the win column after three straight games without a victory.</p>

The Cavaliers got back into the win column after three straight games without a victory.

No. 8 Virginia women’s soccer, hoping to rebound after back-to-back ties, hosted a pair of conference opponents at Klöckner Stadium to close out its regular season home schedule. The Cavaliers (12-2-3, 5-2-2 ACC) took on Wake Forest on a crisp Thursday night, using a second-half goal from freshman midfielder Maggie Cagle to take down the Demon Deacons (9-6-2, 3-6 ACC), who have struggled in conference play.

On Sunday, Virginia had no trouble picking up the win against N.C. State, scoring a pair of goals in each half to take the 4-0 victory. The Cavaliers constantly put pressure on the Wolfpack (7-7-4, 2-6-1 ACC), who ultimately could not replicate it. 

Virginia vs. Wake Forest

Virginia's first scoring opportunity came in the 13th minute off a free kick from junior midfielder Lia Godfrey. However, the shot landed in the hands of Wake Forest junior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Parks’ hands, who finished with a season-high five saves on the night. 

It remained a relatively uneventful first half for both sides, as the Cavaliers posted the game’s only three shots in the opening period — although all three were on target. Despite not being able to find the back of the net in the first half, Virginia seemed to find its defensive groove again after giving up five combined goals in its two most recent contests.

In the 48th minute, Virginia broke the scoreless tie. Graduate student forward Haley Hopkins — who is pacing the team with 11 goals and is tied for second with four assists — fought for the ball on the right side of the box, gathered possession and sent a low cross into the box. After screaming past three Wake Forest defenders, the ball found the foot of Cagle, who struck the ball with her right foot and found the back of the net. 

Cagle has had an outstanding freshman campaign for the Cavaliers, netting her third goal of the season Thursday night, upping her point total to 15 for the season. It certainly seems that she will be a key cog for years to come for Virginia.

After the Cavalier goal, the Demon Deacons started to ramp up the pressure offensively but failed to truly challenge the Virginia backline at any point in the second half. Senior goalkeeper Cayla White was only forced into two saves on the evening, and as a whole, Wake Forest only recorded four shots.

With five minutes left to play, Wake Forest had a decent opportunity to tie the game as junior midfielder Sophie Faircloth had a free kick from five yards outside of the box. She struck the ball, and it soared quickly over Cavalier defenders towards the goal. However, White was able to corral the ball for the final save of the game.

In the Cavaliers’ three matchups leading up to Friday night’s game, they had outshot their opponents 58-18 without a win in the scoring column. This trend continued Friday night as Virginia outshot Wake Forest 7-4, with six shots on goal and only one goal to show for their effort. However, the Cavaliers were able to steal the victory away from the Demon Deacons in the second half. Virginia has to figure out how to convert their scoring opportunities as the postseason quickly approaches. 

However, the Cavaliers answered the bell when they needed to Thursday night and got back into the win column. Coach Steve Swanson was proud of the way his team rebounded after a stretch of underperforming.

“With the way we drew in the last two games, for us to come out and keep the clean sheet and win here against a good Wake team is a good thing,” Swanson said. “We have to come out ready to go again on Sunday”

Also of note for Virginia Thursday night was graduate student forward Alexa Spaanstra’s 100th career start, which ties former goalkeeper Laurel Ivory for the most in program history.

Virginia vs. N.C. State

Before the game, Virginia recognized seven graduating seniors, five of which got the starting nod. This included graduate student goalkeeper Michaela Moran, who was making just her third start of the season. She made the most of the opportunity, making three saves and shutting out N.C. State. 

Right out of the gate, the Cavaliers seized complete control. In the third minute, Spaanstra received a pass on the left side of the field. Making a dribble move, she opened up a direct line to the goal to which she fired the ball into the net, giving Virginia a 1-0 lead. This was just the start of a standout game by Spaanstra. 

While the Cavalier defense held strong the entire game, it was at its most vulnerable point during the sixth minute. The Wolfpack had possession of the ball on Virginia’s side of the field for over a minute. However, when senior midfielder Jaiden Thomas took the shot, it sailed over the top of the goalpost. N.C. State would not get off another shot for the next 37 minutes. 

In the 12th minute, Cagle brought up the ball for the Cavaliers and dumped it off to graduate student defender Sarah Clark. Eyeing Hopkins, Clark sent a pass over the heads of multiple defenders and connected with Hopkins who headed the ball into the goal. Virginia gained a 2-0 advantage that it would take into the locker room. 

The Cavaliers started the second half with a bang and built on their lead within a minute. After Virginia quickly got the ball up the field, Cagle dribbled the ball up the goalline towards junior goalkeeper Maria Echezarreta. She then sent a perfectly placed pass to Spaanstra, who wound up and shot it over the head of Echezarreta. The ball hit the back of the net after bouncing off the top of the goalpost. 

In her last regular season home game, Spaanstra finished with two goals for the seventh time in her collegiate career. However, her goal-scoring was not the only achievement on the day for Spaanstra — the game also marked her 101st career start and appearance, surpassing Ivory as the most in program history.

With three goals scored by graduating seniors, the Cavaliers’ Senior Day was shaping up to be an overwhelming success. However, Godfrey wanted to get in on the action herself. In the 57th minute, Spaanstra had the ball near the goal and disoriented her defender with three changes in direction. She then found Godfrey who launched the ball into the right corner, icing the game for Virginia. 

Clark also had an outstanding performance. In the 76th minute, the Wolfpack were threatening to end the shutout, and senior forward Jameese Joseph received the ball on the left side of the pitch. As Joseph started her shot, Clark came running. She slid her leg in front of the ball, blocking the opportunity and securing the shutout for the second straight game. 

Near the end of the game, Coach Steve Swanson substituted his graduating seniors out. Each player received roaring applause for their standout performances from a crowd of over 2,000. 

“I’m really happy with the way the team performed today, especially the seniors,” Swanson said. “We got good contributions today from all of our seniors. We’re incredibly proud of them. They’ve sacrificed so much for the program, so it was nice to see the fans come out and us get the result with a good performance as well.”

The Cavaliers will close out the regular season Thursday evening at 6 p.m. on the road against Miami.